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Future Treatment for MS: Tattoo Therapy

September 26, 2016

Researchers at Rice University and the Baylor College of Medicine think that "tattoo therapy" could be a future treatment.

In a Sept. 22 news announcement, lead Baylor researcher Christine Beeton said the nanoparticles, which had been modified with polyethylene glycol, were placed "just under the skin" and that "the carbon-based particles form a dark spot that fades over about one week as they are slowly released into the circulation." Beeton explained that the nanoparticles were absorbed by study participants' T cells. Those T cells then lost their ability to function. T cells are thought to be responsible for attacking healthy tissue in patients with autoimmune diseases, including MS.

Macrophages, which are also significant parts of the human immune system, were not affected by the nanoparticles, thus leaving most of the immune system intact and functional.

The ability of the "tattoos" to target T cells while leaving macrophages unaffected is critical, as most current autoimmune disease treatments are "general, broad-spectrum immunosuppressants," said Redwan Huq, the study's lead author. "They're going to affect all of these cells, but patients are exposed to side effects, from infections to increased chances of developing cancer. So we get excited when we see something new that could potentially enable selectivity."